06/05/23 – 12/05/23
Police Scotland do not think patient safety outweighs the cost of supplying information on rapes and sexual assaults in Scotland’s hospitals. The Women’s Rights Network obtained figures under a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) that more than 6500 such attacks happened in four years in England and Wales, 2088 rapes and 4451 sexual assaults, including attacks on children under 13 and some involving multiple attackers. One in seven of the attacks occurred on wards, and most attacks were on women.
Police Scotland said it is ‘too expensive’ to provide the information, exceeding their ‘appropriate costs limit’. In England and Wales only 4.1% of offenders are known to have been charged, but we do not have figures for Scotland.
Police and Women:
The police have an unfortunate relationship with women, with blame culture attaching to victims. That was before we realised the police may be the perpetrators. Police Scotland does not as far as we know have a Wayne Couzens in its ranks, but Scottish officers have been found guilty of sexual and stalking crimes against women, with some currently under investigation.
But police officers are very worried about a new rule due to come into effect on 29th May banning beards and moustaches to enable the wearing of protective FFP3 masks. Civilian staff in frontline roles are also affected, with the only exemptions being on religious, cultural, disability or medical grounds. It is not clear whether an equality or human rights assessment has been carried out.
Anti-Monarchy Group Republic
claims the arrest of protesters at the coronation was ‘premeditated’, as they had previous obtained police approval for their actions on the day. Graham Smith was arrested with 5 others while unloading signs saying ‘Not My King’, with police saying the signs could ‘lock on’ to an object or building, a jailable offence under the Public Order Act, signed into law in England and Wales last week. They spent 16 hours in jail before being released having their bail cancelled and no further action taken, and a belated apology.
The Declaration of Arbroath
will go on public view for the first time in 18 years, not in Arbroath, but in the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh. The declaration, sealed by eight earls and 40 barons, was sent to the Pope in 1320 from the barons of the Kingdom of Scotland seeking recognition of Robert the Bruce as Scotland’s lawful king. The document is too fragile to be displayed continuously, but is displayed from June 3rd to July 2nd in Gallery 2, Level 3, National Museum, daily from 10 am to 5 pm, with free admission.
Scotland’s independence was not acknowledged until 1328, despite the Pope writing to Edward II urging him to make peace with Scotland.
Rich v Poor
While the UK spent at least £100 million (possibly rising to £250m) on the coronation, the Office for National Statistics show starkly what ordinary people are suffering. Food inflation was at a 45 year high of 19.1% in March, due to energy prices, the invasion of Ukraine, Brexit and poor weather. The cost of household staples has soared, cheese by 49%, milk by 38%, sugar by 32%, eggs by 28%, chicken by 25%, and white bread by 21%.
Food banks report ongoing demand for their services, which usually peaks in December. Parents report not eating so that their children have food. Citizens’ Advice Scotland gave 29% more food bank advice this year than the year to March 2022, 96% more than in March 2021, and 43% more than in March 2020. Over 700,000 people renting or paying a mortgage missed a payment in April, according to Which? magazine.
What benefit does Scotland get from the coronation? Yet we will be charged between £10m and £25m of the cost.
The 38-year-old ferry MV Hebridean Isles will be out of commission for 3 months and Orkney ferry services will face further disruption due to the breakdown of the Pentalina on April 29th, with Northlink Ferries providing some emergency cover.
And Mull and Iona Ferry Committee are demanding an emergency intervention from Transport Minister Kevin Stewart over timetable changes leaving them in limbo, possibly facing rationing of spaces for tourists and residents alike, and claim they have been sacrificed to make services run elsewhere. The minister will also probe the salaries contract which may leave taxpayers liable for £1.6 million for crew on two ferries not yet complete.
GMB Scotland has called for Ferguson Marine to remain in public ownership after the Cabinet decided it should go back to private ownership. And CMAL is under fire for sending two key senior figures on a ferry conference cruise in the Mediterranean as the ferry horror unfolds back home. In total it spent up to £170,000 on foreign trips between 2017 and 2022.
The closure of a rescue chopper’s long range fuel depot in Benbecula by Loganair over supply issues will affect air ambulance, helimed and coastguard services plus the rescue helicopter. Lives may be lost. The centre assisted in the rescue of 9 crewmen from the German fishing boat Hansa in 2001,with the helicopter only having five minutes’ fuel left when it landed in Benbecula. Loganair blame the fuel supplier for discontinuing fuel deliveries by ferry to Benbecula. Refuelling will now be done at Stornoway.
The plan to introduce four ‘B’ teams into a new Conference League is causing consternation. As the new league would sit directly below League 2 the move would effectively relegate 200 other clubs, with far-reaching financial effects, and leave the Highland and Lowland Leagues as sixth tier.
The existing play-off system is weighted in favour of higher clubs, forcing play-offs first between the lower league contenders, then the winner playing off against the lowest club from the higher league. Recently Highland League winners Brechin lost a two-leg contest against Lowland League winners Spartans, who now play League 2 bottom club Albion Rovers twice.
The new league would include 4 ‘B’ teams from Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Hearts, despite strong opposition from fans who claim it concentrates money in the biggest clubs. The idea of ‘B’ teams enhancing the league and developing local talent by providing stronger opposition is doubtful, as big teams already cream off the best talent. And how long before 4 extra clubs would become 8 or more extra?
The Scottish Cup Final
was humiliatingly moved to 5.30pm to accommodate England’s cup final, but because one of the finalists is Inverness, the match will finish too late to allow fans home by public transport, with no thought for fan safety getting home or fans milling about Glasgow, and with apparently little or no consultation with either finalist.
It was recently announced that duty on spirits will rise to £31.64 per litre of pure alcohol, meaning that duty and VAT going to the Treasury will rise to £11.40 of the average £15.22 price of a bottle of Scotch whisky. The tax rate has risen 5% to 75%.
Pubs and Restaurants
which were devastated by the pandemic, with 60% cutting opening hours or closing, are still under pressure. Business rates are rising post- pandemic and will double again in 2025/26.
Hospitality providers want a VAT reduction. Although cut to 5% during the pandemic, it is now back up to 20%. And energy costs are up by 250% or more for hospitality venues, with Brexit-induced staff shortages meaning increased wages to retain a dwindling number of staff, with poor harvests fuelling price rises.
Vacant Commercial Space
is being repurposed in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow; Edinburgh’s Waverley Mall; a former furniture store in Inverness, and elsewhere. Arts organisation Outer Spaces connects artists and other creatives with empty spaces for rent-free studios. Launched in 2021, it is leading the way to redesign city centres, repurpose commercial space for housing and rebuild vibrant city centres.
The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh University is suggesting that wealthier Scots families should pay university tuition fees to prevent ‘talent and money’ from leaving Scotland due to the Scottish government’s cap on the number of Scottish-domiciled students universities can accept.
Think tank Reform Scotland suggested that graduates earning more than the average salary could contribute towards their tuition fees, and want the cap on Scottish-domiciled students to be raised. The University and College Union (UCU) rejects this but says the present system effectively allows wealthier families from the rest of the UK to ‘buy places’ in Scotland.
The Scottish government recently cut £46 million to the further and higher education budget.
Youth crisis funding cut
An Edinburgh service working with troubled teens who have suffered violence, or have self-harmed or attempted suicide, has been cut at the same time as the Glasgow service is being expanded. Edinburgh’s Youth Navigator Project has seen its funding from NHS Lothian cut pending an evaluation, with the project closed meantime to new referrals.
The Glasgow project, on the other hand, has secured permanent funding.
A pledge to recruit an extra 1000 mental health specialists has been delayed due to funding problems after the Emergency Budget Review in November, while only 70% of children and young people are seen by the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) within its 18-week target, short of the 90% aimed for.
A two-day event on May 20-21 at the Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy, Fife will remember those accused of witchcraft in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries. A national memorial will be sited at the St Ninians former opencast coal mine in Kelty.
Around 4000 Scots, mainly women, were accused under the Witchcraft Act between 1563 and 1736. Journalist Lesley Riddoch will open the event, and Dr Christopher Rynn will show how facial reconstruction methods can help memorialise the dead. In 2017 he brought Lilias Adie, the Torryburn Witch, ‘back to life’ through 3D virtual sculpture and forensic facial reconstruction.